Gene Nelson (1920 - 1996)

A photo of Gene Nelson
Gene Nelson
1920 - 1996
March 24, 1920
September 16, 1996
Other Names
Gene Nelson, Leander Gene Berg
Gene Nelson was born on March 24, 1920. He died on September 16, 1996 at 76 years of age. We know that Gene Nelson had been residing in Sherman Oaks, Los Angeles County, California 91423.
Updated: March 26, 2021
Gene Nelson Born March 24, 1920 in Astoria, Oregon, USA Died September 16, 1996 in Los Angeles, California, USA (cancer) Birth Name: Eugene Leander Berg Height 6' (1.83 m) Mini Bio (1) Gene Nelson was barely a teen when he saw the Fred Astaire movie Flying Down to Rio (1933), which would change his life. It was then that he decided he would be a dancer. After graduating from high school, Nelson joined the Sonja Henie Ice Show and toured for 3 years before joining the Army in World War II. After he was discharged, he appeared in a handful of movies before 1950. He worked with Debbie Reynolds in The Daughter of Rosie O'Grady (1950), Doris Day in Tea for Two (1950) and Virginia Mayo in She's Working Her Way Through College (1952). He would be best known for his role of cowboy Will Parker in Oklahoma! (1955), where he would twirl the lasso to the tune of "Kansas City". After his dancing days ended he turned to directing TV and films, including two Elvis Presley movies, Kissin' Cousins (1964) and Harum Scarum (1965). For television he directed episodes of I Dream of Jeannie (1965), Star Trek: The Original Series (1966), The Rifleman (1958), The Donna Reed Show (1958) and many others. Spouse (3) Jean Martin (July 1990 - 1994) ( divorced) Marilyn Morgen (7 August 1958 - 1974) ( divorced) ( 2 children) Miriam Nelson (22 December 1941 - 8 June 1956) ( divorced) ( 1 child) Trivia (13) Had three children: Chris Nelson, Douglas M. Nelson, and Victoria Nelson Gordo. Was romantically involved with Maureen Reagan for several years, although they never married. He can be seen as one of the anonymous studio executives in the trailer for the original version of Miracle on 34th Street (1947). Nominated for a 1972 Tony Award for Supporting or Featured Actor (Musical) for his performance as Buddy in the original production of "Follies". First wife Miriam Nelson (nee Frankel) was a specialty film dancer from Broadway ("Panama Hattie"). Married in 1941, she worked in Hollywood while Gene served in the United States Army. He joined her later and she was instrumental in helping him work up his innovative dance routines on film. Second wife Marilyn Morgen was a studio secretary he married in 1958. She was 12 years his junior. Suffered a fractured pelvis in 1957 when a horse fell on him while on film location in Tennessee. Born Eugene Leander Berg, he went to Superior Court in 1964 to change his legal name to Gene Nelson as he wanted to use this for himself and his family. Made his professional stage debut as a member of the Fanchon and Marco Juvenile Revue at the Paramount Theater in Los Angeles in 1935. He also studied tap with Nick Castle. He was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7005 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California on September 24, 1990.
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Gene Nelson
Most commonly known as
Gene Nelson
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Gene Nelson, Leander Gene Berg
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Sherman Oaks, Los Angeles County, California 91423
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Gene Nelson ORIGINAL NAME Leander Eugene Berg BIRTH 24 Mar 1920 Astoria, Clatsop County, Oregon, USA DEATH 16 Sep 1996 (aged 76) Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, USA BURIAL Cremated, Ashes scattered at sea MEMORIAL ID 76594220 · View Source

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Actor, Singer, Dancer, Director. Broadway Star. Movie Star.

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Laurie MacDonald commented on Mar 26, 2021
Absolutely the best film dancer ever. He was versatile, elegant, graceful, and in addition to being a superb tap dancer, was also trained in ballet, gymnastics, ice skating...and could dance in any style. He had to be the most athletic dancer ever also. In addition, he was a superb actor (both comedic and dramatic) and a very good singer. I've always thought that he was a better dancer than either Astaire or Kelly. Gene Nelson was once of a kind.


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Gene Nelson Is Dead at 76; Athletic Hollywood Dancer By Dinitia Smith Sept. 18, 1996 See the article in its original context from September 18, 1996, Section D, Page 20Buy Reprints New York Times subscribers* enjoy full access to TimesMachine—view over 150 years of New York Times journalism, as it originally appeared. SUBSCRIBE *Does not include Crossword-only or Cooking-only subscribers. About the Archive This is a digitized version of an article from The Times’s print archive, before the start of online publication in 1996. To preserve these articles as they originally appeared, The Times does not alter, edit or update them. Occasionally the digitization process introduces transcription errors or other problems; we are continuing to work to improve these archived versions. Gene Nelson, who played Will Parker, the blond, boyish, high-stepping lasso dancer in the 1955 film version of ''Oklahoma!,'' died on Monday at a hospital in Calabasas, Calif. He was 76 and lived in Los Angeles. He had been suffering from cancer, said his daughter, Victoria Gordon. Mr. Nelson, who was also a choreographer, performed as second lead in numerous Broadway and Hollywood musicals. He was an athletic dancer who in the course of his career danced on ships, up a banister and over a Volkswagen. In ''So, This Is Paris'' with Tony Curtis, he leaped high in the air while a bicycle zipped under his jack-knifed legs. Clive Barnes of The New York Times praised his ''flashily effective 30's-style acrobatic dance solo'' in the 1971 Broadway production of ''Follies,'' for which he won a Tony. Though Mr. Nelson was considered to have a good, light singing voice, he was frequently overshadowed by Gordon MacRae, with whom he appeared in ''Oklahoma!,'' ''Tea for Two,'' and ''Three Sailors and a Girl.'' Mr. Nelson rarely got the girl; that honor usually went to MacRae. Mr. Nelson, whose original name was Eugene Berg, was born in Seattle. His family moved to Los Angeles, where he was a gymnast and ice skater in high school. He once said that a Saturday afternoon spent at the movies as a teen-ager watching Fred Astaire dance in ''Flying Down to Rio'' changed his life and made him want to become a performer. In 1937, he joined the Sonja Henie Hollywood Ice Revue and made his first appearance at the Center Theater on Broadway in ''It Happens on Ice.'' You have 4 free articles remaining. Subscribe to The Times During World War II, Mr. Nelson toured with Irving Berlin's all-male ''This Is the Army,'' entertaining American troops in Europe. Then he moved back to Los Angeles, where he won a two-year contract with 20th Century Fox playing roles in ''I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now'' and ''Gentleman's Agreement.'' In 1948 he appeared in Gower Champion's production of ''Lend an Ear,'' which got him a three-year contract with Warner Brothers. There he appeared with Doris Day in ''Lullaby of Broadway'' and ''Tea for Two,'' which also starred MacRae. He appeared with James Cagney in ''The West Point Story.'' As Mr. Nelson aged -- at least in the terms of the dance world -- he tried his hand at serious dramatic roles. Failing to find success, he began directing films, including two with Elvis Presley, ''Kissin' Cousins'' and ''Harum Scarum.'' Mr. Nelson also directed episodes of numerous television series. He liked to tick them off on his fingers. ''Eight 'Riflemans,' '' he told The San Francisco Chronicle in an interview in 1992, ''32 'Donna Reeds' '' and ''24 'Mod Squads,' '' to name but a few. He was married three times, to Miriam Franklin, Marilyn M. Fields and Jean Martin. All of the marriages ended in divorce. In addition to his daughter, of Manhattan, he is survived by two sons, Christopher, of Burbank, Calif., and Douglas, of Los Angeles, and three grandchildren, all of Los Angeles. Correction: Sept. 20, 1996 Because of an editing error, an obituary on Wednesday about the actor Gene Nelson referred incorrectly to his performance in the 1971 Broadway production of ''Follies.'' He was nominated for a Tony Award; he did not win.

1920 - 1996 World Events

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In 1920, in the year that Gene Nelson was born, in September, a bomb exploded in the J.P. Morgan bank building in New York City, killing 30 people immediately - 8 later died due to their injuries - and injuring another 200. Killing more people than the 1910 bombing of the LA Times (the deadliest terrorist act up until then), no one took responsibility and the perpetrators were never found. Italian anarchists were suspected of the bombing.

In 1932, he was merely 12 years old when on February 27th, actress Elizabeth Taylor was born in London. Her parents were Americans living in London and when she was 7, the family moved to Los Angeles. Her first small part in a movie was in There's One Born Every Minute in 1942 but her first starring role was in National Velvet in 1944. She became as famous for her 8 marriages (to 7 people) as she was for her beauty and films.

In 1941, by the time he was 21 years old, on December 7th, the Japanese attacked the military base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The surprise aerial attack damaged 8 U.S. battleships (6 later returned to service), including the USS Arizona, and destroyed 188 aircraft. 2,402 American citizens died and 1,178 wounded were wounded. On December 8th, the U.S. declared war on Japan and on December 11th, Germany and Italy (allies of Japan) declared war on the United States. World War II was in full swing.

In 1953, Gene was 33 years old when on January 20th, Dwight D. Eisenhower became the 34th President of the United States. Formerly the 1st Supreme Allied Commander Europe in World War II, Eisenhower had never previously held a political office.

In 1996, in the year of Gene Nelson's passing, on April 3rd, Theodore Kaczynski (nicknamed the Unabomber) was arrested. His mailed or hand-delivered bombs, sent between 1978 and 1995, killed three people and injured 23 others. Diagnosed as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, Kaczynski is serving 8 life sentences without the possibility of parole.

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